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Islanders and Titan renew hostilities as Eastern Conference heats up

Coming off a split decision this past weekend against the Saint John Sea Dogs, the Charlottetown Islanders return to the friendly confines of the Eastlink Centre for the start of a fairly long home stretch. It all kicks off tonight against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

With the two points over the weekend, the Islanders (22-14-5-0) remain in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference standings, remaining third ahead of the Rimouski Oceanic and the Cape Breton Eagles, although both teams have games in hand on the Isles. They’ll start a stretch that sees them seven games at home and just two on the road. It’s a homestand that the team is looking forward to.

“Properly utilized, this month can be a huge advantage for us,” said Islanders head coach Jim Hulton on January’s schedule. “I thought we did a wonderful job of navigating through a difficult first half in terms of injuries and scheduling. That being said, you have to take advantage of the good moments, and this looks like a good month in terms of minimal travel and lots of practice time. We have to make sure our group is a lot better at the end of January than it is today.”

“It seemed like we had a crazy first half with three Quebec road trips and a lot of away games,” added forward Brett Budgell. “Being at home is definitely a good feeling and we’re excited to be here. Playing in front of our own fans is always fun and a great atmosphere.”

Budgell was an offensive catalyst this weekend for Charlottetown. The 18-year-old forward recorded four points in the two games, continuing a consistent stretch of play for the Islanders assistant captain. Since the start of December, Budgell has 11 points in 12 games and has recorded at least a point in all but three games.

This week, however, Budgell will have some more help offensively, as Nikita Alexandrov and Gaetan Jobin both return from the World Junior Championships. Both players had exceptional tournaments, with Alexandrov scoring at least a point in every game for Team Russia en route to a silver medal, while Jobin recorded two goals and an assist in five games as one of a handful of under-19 players on an experienced Swiss squad.

The Isles will be without is Drew Johnston. The forward suffered an upper-body injury over the weekend and will join Keiran Gallant on the sidelines for the next 7-10 days. As well, Ethan Crossman will serve the second of a two-game suspension tonight for an incident in Friday’s game against Saint John.

The Isles will battle a new-look Titan squad that made a few moves during trade deadline day on Monday afternoon. Bathurst (6-25-3-4) traded Evan MacKinnon to the Gatineau Olympiques while also acquiring Cole Stewart from the Halifax Mooseheads as part of a trade to send prospect Alexandre David to the Moose. The team also announced it had released second-leading goal scorer Anderson MacDonald, while picking up Jeremie Jacob off waivers from the Saint John Sea Dogs.

With MacDonald and Shaun Element both leaving the Titan in the past week, look for over-age forward Remy Anglehart to carry the load offensively for Bathurst. The 20-year-old has established a career-high in goals with 19 this season, and has scored at a near point-per-game pace since joining the Titan earlier this season.

You can still pick up your tickets at the Eastlink Centre box office, by phone at 902-629-6625, or online by clicking HERE. Don’t forget that it’s Winning Wednesday! If you’re in attendance when the Islanders win, take your ticket to the Eastlink Centre box office for a free ticket to any game in January!

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